We’re finally at the end of a long journey. I’ve watched 291 episodes of anime and written 12 articles about them – including this one. That’s a lot. Easily the biggest undertaking I’ve had as a writer thus far. I actually dread to think about the word count of all the articles combined, perhaps I should submit them as a thesis in the hopes of becoming a PhD in Dragon Ball Z. This will be a shorter article I think, giving some final thoughts and musings on the series as a whole and of this rewatch of it in particular. It’s incredibly difficult for me to summarise my thoughts on Dragon Ball Z – hence the 11 prior articles – but I’m going to give it my best shot. Before all that though I want to thank you for joining me on this journey if you did so. If this is the first you’re hearing about it then I suggest you go back and read the articles in order:
There’s no exaggerating how important the series is to me. It is without a doubt one of my all time favourites and an integral part of my formative years. The show isn’t just about fancy light shows and dishing out brutal beat downs, the life lessons it has to teach are ones that stay with you and remain relevant all throughout your life. There’s the obvious ones about doing the right thing and standing up to evil doers but it goes much deeper than that. This is a show that is all about self improvement, striving to be better, about applying yourself and overcoming challenges no matter how insurmountable they seem at first. It’s a series that shows you that it is okay to fail, to make mistakes, to get beaten as long as you get back up (or get wished back to life, that part is a little less relevant to the real world). It’s about perseverance, self reflection and reformation. It’s about finding and standing together with your friends, helping and being helped, showing that achieving things together is just as important as achieving things yourself. What’s important is that you try your best. It even finds time, in this violent “masculine” world of tough guys to be emotionally intelligent enough to show that expressing emotions is a good thing. We even see Vegeta cry and it isn’t mocked or undermined by the characters or the story as a whole, it’s treated with the deference and respect it deserves. It’s allowed. With only the villain taking issue with it.
Dragon Ball Z packs all of that and more into a show that is beautifully animated and designed, that is fun to watch and is a thrilling journey though it hits some bumps nearer to the end. I won’t lie to you and say I watched the entire show at the breakneck pace I mentioned in my Season Six review. That wasn’t sustainable and in particular I found it difficult to get through Season Nine. I went long breaks between watching each disk of episodes for Season Nine. When I did sit down to watch one I tended to finish it, the struggle was in motivating myself to get the next disk into the machine and start watching. Once I did so, I enjoyed the ride but it just goes to show that the meanderings of that final season really do hurt it. The show is not perfect and I touched on some of the issues around its representation of women, its lack of diversity and its use of a racist caricature design for one of the characters. It’s important to recognise how things have moved forward since it was written and released, that some things that were allowed then aren’t okay anymore. That doesn’t change the fact that the show, outside of those issues, is still an excellent one.
Even at its worst, the show is still an enthralling watch when you actually sit down to do so. A watch made all the sweeter this time around by the incredible Blu-Ray remastered scans of the original film reels that make up the 30th anniversary edition that I bought and watched. Seeing the show in a release that isn’t just true to the way I watched it on TV as a kid but is in all likely hood even better – It looks as good as it does in my nostalgia fuzzed memories – that’s an incredible feat.
One thing I’ve really failed to put across in these articles, I think, is its impact across the world. Dragon Ball isn’t just one of the most successful franchises in Japan, or one of the most easily recognisable anime in America and the UK, it’s impact is global. With Goku and Vegeta being as easily recognisable to many as a Skywalker or a Darth. Dragon Ball Z’s anime is a big part of it but across all media the following built around this franchise has been huge and incredibly long lasting. It’s a testament to the writing, the themes, characters and events, to the art, the distinct character designs, animations and stylings, and to the fact it translates so well across a myriad of cultures around the world.
Over 30 years on it’s still as relevant and captivating an experience as it was the day it was made. That, truly, is an incredible achievement. One I’m so glad I got to experience even if dropping so much money on it wasn’t the smartest financial decision I’ve ever made. Pandemic purchases baby, gotta love them.
Now, of course, Manga UK are releasing these same versions as individual season’s so I highly recommend that you purchase them if you want to have the amazing experience that I have had. For fans old and new alike, there’s no better way to experience the show than this.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope it was even half as fun for you as it was for me.